NYC’s Pillo Bytr are the next level in queer music, where punk and glam rock collide. Their debut single is a cover of Dead Or Alive’s classic, Something In My House.
DNA: Where have you been all these years – we’ve been waiting forever for you!
Pillo Bytr: [Laughs] Thank you! I’ve been in other bands, DJ’d, done performance art… but I never got my own act together until now. I went through some tough times and was living with a friend who believed in me and said, “That’s it! I’m putting together a band for you!”
Why the name Pillo Bytr?
Pillo Bytr is my name but it’s also the band’s name – like Sade, Bon Jovi or Goldfrapp are named after the lead singer. The band that plays on the recordings probably won’t be the same one that will play live with me on stage. It’s a New York thing – everyone is in five different bands at the same time so it’s hard to pin people down.
But the term “pillow biter”…?
Oh, yes, it’s a slang term for a gay man, particularly a bottom who likes getting pounded with such ferocious force while bent over that he bites the pillow! I just decided to switch up the spelling to make it unique.
How do you define yourself in terms of gender and sexuality?
I try not to. I want my audience to interpret my music and performance in their own context. The glam rock look I’ve chosen allows me to explore my feminine attributes, while the more masculine sound of Pillo Bytr allows me to blur the lines of gender expectations. That’s what made people like David Bowie so revolutionary. Was he even human? He was otherworldly. Even when he wore make-up and dresses he oozed masculinity. The same goes for Prince. A friend of mine worked for Prince and he would always say, “That was the straightest muthafucka I’ve ever met. He loved pussy!” Prince was secure enough in his masculinity that he could play with feminine styles with total confidence.
Gender illusionist, gender fucker, drag queen or none of the above?
Genderfucker, absolutely. What I do as Pillo Bytr is still very masculine if we were to put it on a spectrum. I’m trying to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be a man. I’ve been getting a lot of shit for not having my nails painted in the Something In My House video [laughs] but that’s just who I am. I didn’t want them painted. I’m not fitting into anyone’s box. We love that you’ve covered a Dead Or Alive pop classic as your opening salve.
I like it when a band debuts with a cover
version. It gives people something familiar to grab onto while introducing someone new. It’s interesting how the song choice came about. I always felt Dead Or Alive was a punk band underneath all the Stock Aitken Waterman production. That’s what I wanted to expose with Something In My House – it’s a punk song once you strip back all the layers.
There’s plenty of Dead Or Alive singer, Pete Burns’ punk spirit in Pillo Bytr, right?
Yes, there is! Dance pop has a lot of gay/queer sensibilities on a very obvious level but many forget that LGBTIQ culture had a major impact on rock’n’roll as well. The leather look, which is pretty much the uniform of heavy metal acts, can be traced to Rob Halford of Judas Priest. He came to rehearsal dressed in the same leather gear he wore to the gay sex clubs and the rest of the band were like, “Yeah, that’ll be our look!” Then there’s all the ’80s glam metal bands like Motley Crue, Poison, even early Guns N’Roses – they were basically drag queens. Somehow none of their sexualities were questioned at the time, but they’re definitely in drag.
Glam metal bands like Motley Crue and Poison were drag queens. Somehow their sexuality wasn’t questioned, but they’re definitely in drag.
Are there more covers or original material for Pillo Bytr to follow?
We have several original songs in the oven, we just need to get back in the studio and get them done. I’m hoping to have our next single Distant Thunder out shortly. It’s ready to go, we just need to film the video.
What other songs would you like to cover?
We have one more cover we’re working on. It’s a Divine song, but I won’t tell you which one [laughs]. Divine is so punk rock.
Are we likely to see you performing live somewhere?
Yes, Something In My House has created a stir over here in New York. Not too many groups are doing what we’re trying to do – mixing glam rock and punk with genderfuckery. There’s a demand for us to do shows, but I want to do it right. We need some more songs out and to solidify the live band’s line-up.
Who’s your diva?
Grace Jones and Siouxsie Sioux have always appealed to me. They’re both genderfuckers. Grace Jones always presented herself as female but pushed the boundaries by taking on many traditionally masculine attributes with her sharp, square hair-do. Siouxsie had her menacing, angular make-up, which almost looked like war paint. Both are undeniably female but they’re not the girls next door.
Are you romantically attached?
No, I’m a complete and total slut and totally proud of it. A true Pillo Bytr, let’s say!
At the beach, speedos, board shorts or nude? Nude, if allowed!
What are the big issues that concern you most at present?
The political situation in America is very troubling right now. We could do a whole interview on that alone. Lots of hatred, racism, and homophobia are being normalized to an alarming degree. We have Nazis openly running for Congress, police who kill unarmed civilians with impunity, religious nutcases crashing our Pride parades, not to mention the growing income disparity that affects LGBTIQ people of colour to a higher degree. It’s still legal in 31 of the 50 States to deny employment to someone based on their sexuality. We’re very much in the Dark Ages here.
What’s the one thing that might surprise people about you?
That I’m a complete geek, a nerd, a total dweeb – music geek, comic book geek, you name it! I’m really not cool at all and if I seem cool it’s completely by accident.
Tell us about “something in your house”.
The walls of my bedroom are covered with over 15 nude male paintings. It’s a fringe benefit of knowing many artists in NYC. I have more paintings than I know what to do with. It makes my boudoir look like an artsy sex dungeon. What’s your message to the gay men?
Next year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. So much has changed in that time but we still have a long way to go. The fight is not over by a long shot.